Veterinarian Suleiman Saeed packs up vaccines, disinfectants, and antibiotics in his storage facility in the Kurdish Iraqi city of Dohuk, before leaving on one of his regular consultation trips in the countryside.
“I have a work schedule. Every month I go out for two weeks. But in case of emergency, I am ready to help animals in need at any time,” the 54-year-old veterinarian tells Reuters.
“Displaced people from Mosul live in these villages. They came because of various reasons, including (the war against) the Islamic State and the drought. They are poor people. They raise animals (livestock),” he continues.
He travels long distances to deliver care to sheep, donkeys, chickens, dogs and other animals in these villages. He has made himself a reputation by providing his services to shepherds, who usually do not have access to veterinarians.
Barek Adnan, one of the Wadi Khodeda residents, a small village about 25 kilometers from Dohuk, says that his family does not have the financial resources to bring their animals to be treated in town. He adds that without Saeed, the animals might not be receiving adequate care at all.
“He (Saeed) comes to heal our animals. We can’t go to the mountains without our donkeys,” Adnan says. “He comes very often. He comes here and takes care of everything. When he sees that an animal is sick, he follows-up and keeps coming back until the animal is recovered.”
Saeed has been working as a veterinarian for decades. Since 2017 and the war against the Islamic State, he is focusing on helping communities who can’t go back to their places of origin, lacking the money to rebuild their homes.
Animal rights activism
Saeed is also the head of the Kurdistan Organization for Animal Rights Protection. He says that in Iraq, animal rights activism is still in its early stages, but he hopes that by giving the right example, this will change in the future.
“People in Iraq don’t have rights yet. You see in the news that every day people might get killed in the street. So animal rights activism here is still in its early days.”
Saeed visits the villages on a voluntary basis and receives funding from two international animal protection organizations that cover fuel and medical supplies.